Ad agencies will prosper again when they bring creativity and tech together
A view from Laura Jordan Bambach

Ad agencies will prosper again when they bring creativity and tech together

Creative agencies lost their way because they became separated from technology. Putting both disciplines at the centre of the business offers a way forward, Grey London's Laura Jordan Bambach says.

For some time now we have been dividing the way we work into silos: Tech vs creativity, selling vs purpose, measurement vs voice.

But they are all part of what we do and they can be a powerfully cohesive force for good. 

In the early 2000s, tech was booming and alongside it, creativity. With novel ways of working, non-linear storytelling, new challenges and places to explore, the creative world was digital, and the digital world was creative.

We were experimenting, pushing boundaries to benefit our clients and increasing the quality of our work. 

Looking to the future of creative agencies from where we are today, it’s clear that something has broken.

That excitement, the building upon what we know to explore more things and build again on that; much of it seems to have been overshadowed by pure performance and measurement.

Content creation doesn’t feel like something that is designed to benefit the whole, but just content for the sake of itself – and that’s just adding bad to worse in a sea of ill-thought-out material.

Part of the problem is that we are no longer the keepers of the metrics. Have no doubt, enormous platforms are brilliant for reaching a huge audience. But the definition of measurement they provide cannot be the future for the way we measure and grow if we value difference and the growth that comes from creative leaps.

Creative agencies need to harness their own technologies and reach out beyond standard metrics. We need to increase our creative work with tech, not keep running with one serving the other.

When we blend the two, we can create the magic that makes brands grow and us all love coming to work. 

The importance of being creative 

Being creative today means the ability to adapt, to make the most of what’s in front of us, to take bigger leaps in terms of innovation and growth.

It’s a process that feels difficult to define at first but can be effectively planned for and measured. I think creativity is what’s going to get us back on our feet faster, and better.

Creativity is the fundamentally human superpower by which we solve problems, and it thrives on change and adversity.

As Mark Read, the WPP chief executive, said of our industry in an interview with Campaign in March, we’ve focused on the technology for too long at the expense of creativity – they need to be balanced. It shouldn’t be an either/or scenario.

Online there has been some experimentation – by brands that have the privilege of being household names already.nIt’s great to see Airbnb experimenting with lowering performance marketing in favour of brand marketing, but as Campaign's Gideon Spanier has pointed out – not everyone is in a position of worldwide fame, making profit that can cover that risk.

Personalisation, programmatic and optimisation can all deliver great benefits to brands, but creativity brings brand love and recognition, salience, distinctiveness and those leaps of development that are fundamental to healthy brands – both of these together is magic.

Post-Covid creativity

As we think about the future of creative agencies in the coming months and years, we need to be aware that the old patterns are broken, ready to be swept away.

We may not all be in the same physical space together, but we are finding that we can be creative about how we work, as well as what we work on.  

It is in this fresh environment that we can create situations where division is not required. Technology and measurement can’t dictate how creative things happen anymore.

We need to look at digital and see it for what it is – just one part of our world, important but no more than physical spaces, memorable experiences or human connection. 

By all means, we need to measure brand successes, but remember that with the adversity of the last 12 months comes time to experiment, bring new adventures and opportunities to customers.

We can always come back to those metrics, they’re not going away, but we need to also stray from the path and make sure we are opening technology up through creative expression.

This partnership of creative and tech, is the way that creative agencies need to evolve to face the future. I feel there will be a wave of more creative businesses and more creative ways of working by 2030.

Creativity brings fame, which we know is the biggest driver for brand growth and breaks out of the filter bubble of targeting. Now more than ever, we need to bring creativity and technology together to find better, more efficient and more impactful marketing across the whole customer journey.

And that means bringing creativity back in balance with technology into the centre of our businesses.

Laura Jordan Bambach is president of Grey London